£14.9bn UK spending on unused COVID-19 supplies to be amortized over two years

The UK government has written off £14.9bn ($18.5bn) of spending on COVID-19 medical supplies that remain unused, the UK public spending watchdog said.

In a Department of Health and Human Services (DHSC) report issued on 26 January, the National Audit Office (NAO) found that the UK government’s loss of personal protective equipment (PPE) and other items: said to The COVID-19 pandemic was higher than previously announced.

According to the report, the DHSC estimates that the value of items procured in response to the pandemic has decreased by £6 billion between 2021 and 2022.

The DHSC said financial cuts to pandemic-sourced goods included a £2.5bn write-down of items that originally cost £11.2bn, according to the NAO.

The department had already purchased commodities including PPE, lateral flow, PCR test kits, and COVID-19 vaccines and medicines, but did not plan to use them or the market price was lower than the price paid. I’m here.

A further £3.5bn was write-downs on PPE, vaccines and medicines DHSC ‘committed to buy but no longer expects to use’.

“Combined with £8.9bn write-downs in the 2020-21 financial year, DHSC now reports £14.9bn write-downs related to PPE and other items,” the NAO said. .

DHSC estimates the ongoing storage and disposal costs of excess and unusable PPE at £319 million. At the end of March 2022, the estimated monthly cost of storing PPE was £24m.

‘Amazing’ loss

The main opposition Labor Party is trying to hold Prime Minister Rishi Sunak part of the blame, saying he was finance minister while spending on medical clothing, face coverings and other items took place. points out.

Labor’s shadow health secretary, Wes Streeting, said it was “amazing” that £14.9bn had been “wasted”.

“The Conservatives can never again claim to be managing their finances prudently,” he said.

“While Rishi Sunak was in control of the purse strings, a staggering £15bn of public money was wasted on useless PPE – the equivalent of a year’s worth of police. Instead, that money literally goes up in smoke.

“Taxpayers will rightly judge the Conservatives’ careless handling of their money to be an absolute scandal.”

But the government said it was “misleading” to say £14.9bn of taxpayer money had been wasted.

A government spokeswoman said:

“Purchasing critical COVID vaccines and medicines has saved countless lives and also helped keep the NHS and care staff safe.

“Our approach has meant that we were the first country in the world to deploy an approved COVID vaccine, delivering 144 million doses and over 25 billion pieces of PPE to the front lines. increase.”

‘Severe shortcomings’

NAO also found “significant deficiencies in financial management and governance” at the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA).

As a result, officials said Comptroller Gareth Davis was unable to provide the Board’s audit opinion for the fiscal year and instead issued what is known as an “opinion disclaimer.” rice field.

The UKHSA, a government agency set up to replace Public Health England (PHE) in 2021, has been charged with testing the population and tracking variants of potential concern during the pandemic. rice field.

Meg Hillier, chairman of the House Public Accounts Committee, said: Offices with enough information to conduct audits for 2021-22.

“Taxpayers have a right to know how their money is being spent, including testing and tracking.”

The NAO said it was exposed to a “high level of risk” due to “a key element of internal control was not in place during the first six months of UKHSA” and the lack of a formal governance structure. .

NAO Director Davies said:

“When setting up a new institution it is imperative to have a basic governance structure in place. DHSC and UKHSA should be on track to work with HM Treasury to create auditable accounts. ”

UKHSA Chief Executive Dame Jenny Harries said he accepted the NAO findings and was taking them “very seriously”.

“UKHSA was established in unprecedented circumstances and tackling COVID-19 was our top priority,” she said.

“We have already made great strides and are very different in terms of stability, governance and financial management. We will work closely with DHSC to ensure that future accounts are more robust.”

PA Media contributed to this report.